Barshim the Asian exception in track and field

Mon Sep 8, 2014 3:16am EDT
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By Nick Mulvenney

(Reuters) - The athletics competition at the 17th Asian Games lacks the stardust Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang sprinkled over the last couple of editions but high jumper Mutaz Essa Barshim brings a touch of genuine world class talent to Incheon.

While the continent has become more competitive in other high profile sports, success in track and field remains the exception rather than the rule and there are no reigning world champions from Asia.

Like Liu before him, Qatari Barsham is the current Asian standout and his battle with Ukrainian Bohdan Bondarenko for supremacy in the air has been one of the highlights of the Diamond League season.

Only one man has ever jumped higher than Barshim and the London Olympic bronze medallist is inching ever closer to the world record of 2.45 metres Cuban great Javier Sotomayer set more than two decades ago.

The 23-year-old, who is Doha-born and not an African import like many competing for Gulf states, has been in brilliant form this year, jumping 2.38m to win the world indoor title, 2.42m in New York in June and 2.43m to win the Diamond League final.

Barshim has targeted retaining the title he won in 2010 as one of his main objectives this year and could set the bar high if the weather conditions are favourable.

With Liu leading the way, China were the dominant athletics force in Guangzhou four years ago, winning 13 of the 47 golds and 36 of the 144 medals up for grabs.

They will again be looking for a good haul over the seven days of competition from Sept. 27-Oct. 3 and although their international strength is in the field and on the race-walk circuit, they are also competitive on the track in Asia.   Continued...

First placed Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar celebrates after the men's high jump final at the world indoor athletics championships at the ERGO Arena in Sopot March 9, 2014.                 REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach